If Reading want to pull clear from the bottom three, they need to start winning their home games, and fast. Their next opportunity to do that comes on Saturday with the visit of Neil Harris’ Millwall, another side struggling at the wrong end of the table.
The Royals’ first league of the season came just after the international break - away at Preston North End. Can they repeat that success against The Lions?
Form (all competitions): LWDLL
Paul Clement’s side are on rocky form at the moment despite what looked to be a mini-revival in September. Three points at Preston were soon followed by a win against Hull City (our only home victory in the Championship this season) before a battling point at Brentford. However, back-to-back defeats at the hands of QPR and West Brom have deflated the mood.
Injuries to key players threaten to throw more spanners in the works. New holding midfielder Saeid Ezatolahi is out “for the short term” according to Clement, while Jon Dadi Bodvarsson, Paul McShane and John O’Shea aren’t far off but are more likely to return for the trip to Birmingham City in mid-week.
However, Garath McCleary and Callum Harriott - previously two long-term absentees - are now fully fit and available for selection, as is Sam Baldock. Otherwise, Dave Edwards, Jordan Obita and Omar Richards will be unavailable for the foreseeable future.
Paul Clement on Millwall
“It will be a tough game because even though Millwall are one point and one place above us they are still a good side. They beat Aston Villa in their last game and last season they were really strong.
“They are a big, physical side and are comfortable with their style. We have to be able to stand up to it but we are the home side so we must take the initiative. It’ll be great to get a result against one of our rivals and see our position shift.”
Form (all competitions): LLLDW
Millwall have picked up the same number of points as Reading in their last five, although their draw and win came in their previous two matches - against Nottingham Forest (away) and Aston Villa (home) respectively. On the whole, it’s been a far cry from last season for The Lions who shocked many to flirt with the play-offs in 2017/18, but now sit in a lowly 20th place.
However, it’s good news on the injury front, with Neil Harris likely being able to choose from a squad that’s got a completely clean bill of health. Shaun Hutchinson should be fit after several months out, while Mahlon Romeo is also available after experiencing a tight groin on international duty with Antigua and Barbuda.
Harris’ side will likely include former Royal Jake Cooper who came through the academy before making 54 appearances for the club. He moved to South London initially on loan after falling out of Jaap Stam’s first-team plans before making the switch permanent in the summer of 2017.
Shaun Hutchinson on Reading
“We have been having the two weeks to work on a few things, and it was good to go into the break with a win.
”Obviously last year it took us a while to get our first away victory. Hopefully we can pick up the win on Saturday which can have the same effect as before. Once we get the first away win, we can really start moving up the table.”
- Reading have the worst home record in the division this season, having picked up one win and five losses.
- Millwall have the third worst away record in the Championship, and are winless on the road in 2018/19.
- The Royals haven’t beaten The Lions at the Madejski Stadium in the league since September 2014 when Simon Cox bagged an 84th-minute winner. Only two players from that matchday squad are still at the club (Chris Gunter and Jordan Obita).
Home advantage should give Reading the edge, but injuries to key players mean Saturday’s game could prove to be a difficult encounter. There’ll be a lot of pressure on youngster Yakou Meite to deliver up front, while the out-of-form David Meyler could be the man chosen to replace Ezatolahi. Whatever team Paul Clement picks, it will be far from his strongest, so a full-strength Millwall may be able to capitalise.
Reading 1-1 Millwall